No country for Kiki challenge: Forget corruption, ‘goras’ dancing with our flag is the bigger problem

Published: August 19, 2018
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Apparently, Eva dancing while draped in the Pakistani flag was a way of desecrating it.

The entire world is familiar with the rather infamous ‘Kiki challenge’ by now. It is yet another one of those social media influenced fads, readily embraced by the younger generation, along with celebrities of course, and involves dancing on the song In My Feelings by Drake.

However, one particular challenge landed both a vlogger and the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) in trouble, and left Pakistanis wondering – why?

Eva zu Beck is a Polish tourist and vlogger currently on a world tour, who recently filmed herself doing the Kiki challenge in collaboration with PIA; the latter being eager to promote itself and market Pakistan as a tourist destination. The video of Eva doing the challenge went viral, with a few TV channels even making it a bone of contention.

However, none of this is what caused the entire ruckus. The nation would have moved on eventually, had it not been for the chairman of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal. Not only did Iqbal order a probe into the matter, but also ended up severely reprimanding PIA.

Apparently, Eva dancing while draped in the Pakistani flag was a way of desecrating it. Pretty soon others jumped in too, with most people struggling to find anything objectionable in Eva’s dance, while others condemning the fact that it took place altogether.

However, what piqued my interest more is, does the NAB chairman even have jurisdiction over matters such as these? Let’s suppose he does, from a legal point of view. Even then, does he not have better things to do, as the head of an institution dedicated solely for combating corruption in a country that ranks 117 (out of 180) on the watch list? Not to forget the fact that thousands of Pakistanis have been accused and even convicted of maintaining bank accounts with illicit funds in billions, as well as offshore properties, companies and money laundering networks which include some of our most prominent politicians.

The hullabaloo caused by Iqbal’s notice – which led to PIA dissociating itself from the video and Eva apologising for it – only made Pakistan seem more of an intolerant nation. This comes at a time when we desperately need the opposite message to be conveyed to the world; when we should be clinging to any and every opportunity to market Pakistan as a place that’s both welcoming and hospitable. Ironically, we took PIA’s attempt at promoting a positive side of the country and succeeded at conveying the opposite.

Hi everyone 😊 Quick announcement to explain what happened with the PIA Kiki Challenge video. 💡And of course I’ll continue to explore all the beauty of Pakistan 💚

Posted by Eva zu Beck on Monday, August 13, 2018

Iqbal believes the Pakistani flag has been disrespected, and that Eva shouldn’t have been allowed to drag it along on the runway and the airplane. Perhaps the flag’s prestige has not been upheld with the way it was dragged, but should we not consider whether Eva meant to seem disrespectful? Should we not give her the benefit of the doubt, given she did the challenge with good intentions? Granted, she should have been more careful while handling our flag, but was she not sincerely doing it to present a soft image of Pakistan, to promote Pakistan?

On the other hand, security concerns have been rightfully raised as to how an unauthorised person could use the runway in this manner. However, it is clear as day that the PIA was trying to tap into an international audience by filming and promoting a foreigner doing the Kiki challenge. The entire act seemed like harmless fun for a good cause, and surely, security exceptions could have been made for that.

We should also be cognisant of the fact that every year, after our Independence Day has passed, millions of Pakistani flags are disposed of on the streets, telling a sorry tale of neglect and dishonour. Shouldn’t the NAB chairman also take notice pertaining to this situation?

Additionally, perhaps Iqbal was unaware or deliberately ignorant of the fact that Abrarul Haq has also come under fire for stepping on the flag during a concert – an act which fits every single definition of desecration. Where was the notice for this disrespect? Are such notices reserved only for well-meaning foreign tourists doing us a favour by trying to promote a positive image of our country?

This is thus yet another instance where a stronger than necessary reaction took place on a trivial matter. Even if there was something strongly objectionable about dancing with the Pakistani flag or the fact that PIA arranged for it, surely action could have been taken without making the tourist feel unwelcome or forcing her to apologise. Unfortunately, such harsh criticism on a well-meaning tourist only vilified us globally, further strengthening the notion that we as a nation lack moderation.

If we continue on this path, there will be little difference left between us and the chest-thumping, jingoistic and hateful fanaticism frequently seen in India, where hostility is now equated with patriotism. South Asia already has a hate-mongering, intolerant country in its backyard; surely it does not need another one.

The way Eva was dressed in a traditional shalwar kameez with the Pakistani flag in the video only shows her love for Pakistan. Therefore, we must focus on the sentiment behind her celebration rather than nit-picking to find things we don’t like in everything in a bid to seem more puritan. We should make it a point to respond to such benign, peaceful and friendly expressions with love rather than cruelty and unkindness. What Pakistan desperately needs is to encourage individuals wanting nothing more than presenting a better image of our nation, rather than disheartening them further.

Ahsan Zafeer

Ahsan Zafeer

The author is interested in politics, social issues and sports. He has a passion for writing and believes that issues can be resolved through discussion. He tweets @AhsanZafeer (twitter.com/AhsanZafeer)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Manju

    In Pakistan everything is a big deal..roflRecommend

  • Sunil Aryan

    Soon someone will issue some FatwaRecommend

  • Alex Sal

    Too late. I alreadid didRecommend

  • Patwari

    Agree with you, to an extent. Just like Hindustan is a religiously extremist
    society. Where an extremist yogi was voted in as chief minister of UP,
    [Yogi Adithyanath, CM, of UP, wants a statue of Rama in every mosque]
    Pakland is a cleric dominated society. Clerics don’t win elections but they
    are powerful. And yes, some crazed cleric in a remote village can pass a
    fatwa.Recommend

  • Xahid

    you misspell Hindustan!Recommend

  • Sane

    This is contraction what you say. Clerics are powerful, but they couldn’t win in elections. Rather in history of Pakistan they couldn’t win to make any difference is forming cabinet. Yes, they are just pressure group.Recommend

  • Truth

    She is being sponsored to promote tourism now.Recommend